//
you're reading...
Big Data, Structured Problem Solving

Top 5 Executive Concerns Analytics Professionals Must Address

dataInsightsBindal S. Asks…

Companies make huge investments in data but it’s predominantly used strictly for operational reporting purposes.  Decision-making continues to be driven primarily by experience and less by the data-driven insights. I think this is due a mix of different reasons some of which are listed below:

1. Distance between the decision makers and analytics professionals.
2. Lack of business context and communication skills in the analytics group.
3. Change Management – After all, data is changing the way decisions are made and you are bound to encounter resistance.

I would like to know your view on this.

The MBA Responds…

Thanks for the great question – you’re onto something here!

In many organizations, analytics professionals are challenged with defining their value to business executives.  This is due to a number of reasons, but ultimately, the outcome ends up being what Bindal identifies above – the analytics professionals become the hub for handling operational reporting requests.  In order to shift from being viewed as an operational reporting utility to a strategic partner/value-driver, the following presents the top five executive concerns that must be addressed by analytics professionals and provides an approach to tackle each one.

  1. “You’re not telling me about stuff I care about.”  Analytics professionals must spend time understanding business executives’ key value metrics.  Discussing data or research results that are not aligned with key value metrics is a sure way to lose your most important audience; for example, don’t tell  an executive responsible for customer satisfaction about sales forecasts unless the sales forecasts tie back to customer satisfaction.  To solve this problem, try creating a simple matrix that connects business executives to key value metrics.  To find out what metrics matter, just ask the executives or see if your organization uses scorecards.  The goal is to position analytics professionals as strategic partners who care about your most important value metrics.
  2. “I don’t trust the data.”  This one is really common and a valid point.  If you don’t trust the data, the only other option is to make decisions based on experience.  However, we all know that some data is better than no data at all, but how do you convince the executives?  Simple – make them a part of the data collection process.  Once you’ve understood the key value metrics, ask the executives which data sources they’d like you to use.  If they can’t pinpoint them, suggest some and work with them to get buy-in upfront.  Don’t wait till you are done with your analysis!  Have multiple checkpoints to gain trust and confidence.  Again, the goal is to position analytics professionals as strategic partners who work with the business.
  3. “I don’t know what action I should take.” I’ve sat in numerous presentations where most make the classic mistake of just presenting data.  Data by itself is just information – focus on presenting  insights and actions.  Traditionally, data analysts leave it to the business folks to interpret the data.  But, turn that notion upside down by starting every business conversation with “Here’s what I think the data says, what actions can we take?”‘   Building general business awareness and knowing your organization will help you  present actionable insights.  But, simply just asking the action focused question will change executives’ perception.  The goal is to position the analytics professionals as those who want to drive the key value metrics with action.
  4. “Change is hard.” Fundamentally, any sort of change is hard – even moving from experience-based decision making to data-driven decision making.  But, just knowing that allows analytics professionals devise a deliberate strategy for change management.  A data analysts job is to arm executives with actionable insights to make a decision.  Therefore, successful analysts consistently ‘shows and doesn’t tell’.  Don’t force a decision because the data says so – it’s not your job to make the decision.  Just be consistent in how you address the key value metric and deliver the information.  And, over time this concern generally goes away.
  5. “Your data analysis doesn’t compare to my experience.” This ones hard to tackle, but there are subtle and creative ways to tackle it.  An executive who delivers consistent results using experience-based decision making is hard to challenge.  But, every opportunity you get to discuss a data-driven insight, deliver it in a manner that highlights the gap between an action taken based on experience versus an action based on data.  Don’t call out the difference – let it speak for itself.  Just lead the horse to water.

As always, thank you for your time and look forward to your feedback.

Discussion

6 thoughts on “Top 5 Executive Concerns Analytics Professionals Must Address

  1. Written by a true manager… blame anyone but yourself….
    Communications is always “ONE” way …. from the TOP DOWN , those below me know nothing, why should I listen to you “Your not my Boss”.
    Way to expand your preconceived experience and lack of knowledge.

    Posted by Rodney Wynn | March 8, 2013, 7:19 am
    • Thank you for your comment. First and foremore, I apologize if my post offended you in any way. The intent of the article was to merely provide analytics professionals (analysts, managers, and executives alike) an unbiased view and approach to handling their interactions with business executives. Whether we like it or not, business executives are made responsible and accountable for the Profit/Loss of entire organizations and/or sizable business units. Their decisions and actions are important for the success of organizations and it’s employees. I believe analytics professionals are an important piece of the enterprise and should be positioned as positive influencers for those important business decisions.

      Posted by srinivasMBA | March 9, 2013, 8:04 pm
      • You make this comment “The intent of the article was to merely provide analytics professionals (analysts, managers, and executives alike) an unbiased view and approach to handling their interactions with business executives” backed up by this previous comment ….. Once you’ve understood the key value metrics, ask the executives which data sources they’d like you to use. …. how is this unbiased? You can skew data to say anything you want it to say.. As an analyst you are taught to present the data in an unbiased / non-judged presentation allowing management to SEE THE TRUTH.
        “Just knowing that allows analytics professionals devise a deliberate strategy for change management. A data analysts job is to arm executives with actionable insights to make a decision.” When was the last time you encountered “Management” that actually accepted a view or decision not already theirs?
        Finally the very last sentence in your article “deliver it in a manner that highlights the gap between an action taken based on experience versus an action based on data. Don’t call out the difference – let it speak for itself. Just lead the horse to water.” That is what analyst are requested to do…no preconceived skewed data presented to back your own preconceived view. You even acknowledge this with “A data analysts job is to arm executives with actionable insights to make a decision.” Do not attempt to make the decision for them…..
        Thank you for taking the “time” to respond

        Posted by Rodney Wynn | March 10, 2013, 6:39 am
      • Thanks again for your comment. Let’s just agree to disagree on this one. You are interpreting bias in my approach and that’s fine. I respect your opinion and don’t intend to challenge or persuade you otherwise.

        As an analytics professional myself, I’ve been successful in presenting unbiased views of data and helping manager and executives make profitable decisions using the approach described above. Thought I’d share with others – whether they agree with it or not. I am curious – you seem to want to challenge the thoughts above but have not presented how you would go about convincing an executive that data-driven decision making is important. Educate me…there’s a millions ways to do anything…how would you do it?

        Posted by srinivasMBA | March 10, 2013, 8:53 am
  2. Great article! The change from experience based decision making to data-driven decision making can be difficult. It challenges the way things have been done. The book and movie “Moneyball” covered this topic.

    Posted by Charles | March 8, 2013, 10:13 pm
  3. Great Article, as marketing analytic professional I face these challenges, all the time.

    Posted by Tarun Goel | January 11, 2014, 6:54 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: